Telstra BigPond Music unveiled its new online music store today after cutting a deal with major record labels to provide their tracks on the site as MP3s. The deal also covers leading Australian independent music labels.
Until recently many online music customers were committed to downloading tracks using formats that were not compatible with all music devices. BigPond's group managing director, Justin Milne, said the move to the MP3 format will mean that music downloaded from the BigPond site will be compatible with all standard music players, including the iPod, Sony's Walkman range and a wide variety of other portable digital music players and home media centres.
"Until now many people found it complex to download music legally, and ended up frustrated when they discovered their music was locked onto a single device or was impossible to transfer to the player of their choice. But from today BigPond's new service means consumers can transfer tracks from their computer to almost any device they care to use", Milne said.
According to a BigPond-commissioned survey, more than 80 per cent of Australians who own an MP3 player agreed that they would benefit from an Australian online MP3 store; many more said that they found music download services confusing to access.
The new agreements — no doubt a move by Telstra to claim a part of Apple's growing iTunes music download market — will see BigPond offer music from record labels Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI, as well as Australian independent record labels and distributors including MGM, Inertia, Liberation, IODA and AmpHead.
The MP3 format is the most widely supported digital music format worldwide, and one of the reasons for its popularity is that it is free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that locks downloads to a limited range of devices or platforms. BigPond's MP3 catalogue is available encoded at 256Kbps and 320Kbps. The MP3 format is compatible with all standard music player software, including Windows Media Player, iTunes and RealPlayer.
Representatives from the major record labels were excited about the deal and revealed they have worked with Telstra on its online music strategies for a number of years.
"We welcome the launch of BigPond Music's MP3 download store. We have been working with Telstra with its Music strategy over a number of years and we believe this is a major step in further building strong retail download services in Australia," said Denis Handlin, chairman and CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment Australia and New Zealand.
Warner Music Australia's president and chief executive officer, Ed St John, said he welcomes BigPond's initiative and applauded its commitment to operating a legitimate music download service.
Telstra said this deal is the first part of its ongoing plans, with negotiations underway with more independents, and the MP3 catalogue will grow significantly over the coming months.